The Sky for November 2013

The biggest advantage of winter for northern astronomers is it gets dark early. By mid November astronomical twilight is at 6:07pm EST and nautical twilight is 5:32pm. So observing the night sky is a lot easier than in late June when astronomical twilight is 11:24 EDT.

The moon plays a prominent role this month. Which is fine if you like looking at the moon, but not so good if you’re going to a dark site and want to hunt down some faint fuzzies. New moon is on Nov 3rd and will just be visible a couple days later in the western sky a few minutes after sunset. Try finding the young crescent moon on Nov 5th just after sunset which is at 4:45 est. The moon shows off the most detail when viewed along the terminator (line between light and dark). This is most true when viewing through a medium power telescope but also when using binoculars. So the moon is quite interesting to look at between new moon and 1st quarter – a waxing crescent –  also the waxing gibbous moon. (The waning moon also shows off a nice terminator but it transits much later at night.) The first quarter moon is Nov 9th when it rises 12:30pm est sets at 23:11. Full moon is on Nov 16 and rises 16:07 set the next morning at 6:55am and is a prominent object for the whole night. 3rd quarter is on Nov 25th when it rise 23:59. So its not until about Nov 23rd when the moon rises at 21:59 that it’s completely out of the way.

The chart below shows about 160° of the sky to the south on November 15th at 9pm. This corresponds to the same view at 10pm on Nov 1st and 8pm on Nov 30th.


Pegasus is now front and centre by mid-month, 2hrs earlier than in October. Cygnus is setting into the west and the winter constellations are starting to rise in the east with Taurus (the bull) first to appear. While not on the chart, the Big Dipper has sunk to its lowest point in the evening and is obscured from view unless you have an obstructed northern horizon.

Last month’s feature object – the Andromeda galaxy (M31) – is now high in the southern sky at 9pm mid-month and so in a fine position to observe. (See the October Sky article for more info on the Andromeda Galaxy.)

The sky has rotated another 2hrs from the same time last month, so the reference stars to find M31 are in a slightly different orientation.


A challenging constellation to find is Pisces (the Fish). It is also due south at 9pm mid-month and just below the more prominent constellation Pegasus. It’s rather spread out with no obvious pattern to orient you. That and the stars are relatively faint and so hard to see, particularly from even a semi-rural sky. The main pattern is made up of stars that range in brightness from 3.6 to 5.2.

The best way find the whole constellation is to first locate the head of the bottom fish – the tight circle of 7 stars directly below Pegasus.
The square pattern in Pegasus is about 12° on a side – so a little larger than your hand (Hand Scale for Measuring Angles. The fish’s head is also about 12° below the bottom of Pegasus.

From there, try to trace the pattern of stars that form for the large v-shape.